Archive for December 2006

Leadbetter New PJ of Commw. Ct.

December 15, 2006

Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter will begin a five-year term as president judge of the Commonwealth Court next month stepping into a role outgoing President Judge James Gardner Colins has filled for 10 years .

The court unanimously elected Leadbetter to the post by secret ballot Tuesday. Her term will begin Jan. 2 when Colins steps down after two terms as president judge. Leadbetter said she’s honored by her colleagues’ confidence in her ability to oversee the court’s administrative functions, but conceded she has a lot to learn.

Asked whether she has an agenda for her term, Leadbetter said, “In terms of making changes, no. I need to get into the job for a while before I would.”

“My agenda is just to keep things running smoothly,” she said.

Leadbetter, a Republican, was elected to the Commonwealth Court in 1997 and faces  a  retention  election in 2007. Colins, a Democrat,  is completing his second non-consecutive term as president judge. He was elected president judge for a second time by his colleagues in 2002. His first term ran from 1992 to 1997.
–Peter Hall, Staff Reporter


Blank Rome Names Diversity Officer

December 14, 2006

Blank Rome has named Cincinnati partner, former Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer.

This appointment follows a trend in many local firms to install a head of diversity initiatives.

The diversity committee of Blank Rome made the suggestion that the firm create such a position.

As chief diversity officer, Jones will lead and manage all aspects of Blank Rome’s diversity program, including the implementation and execution of the firm’s diversity plan, coordination of diversity activities and events, integration of diversity into the firm’s business plan, and communication on diversity both internally and externally. In addition, Jones will identify and implement best practices in the area of recruitment and training of a diverse workforce and maintenance of an environment of inclusion.

At Blank Rome, Jones concentrates his practice in the areas of litigation and dispute resolution. Prior to joining the firm, Jones served as a judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati from 1979 to 2002. He has served as chairman of the American Bar Association’s council on racial and ethnic justice, and he has worked with Blank Rome’s diversity committee since joining the firm.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Yes, Todd is a Democrat and Other Judicial Race Tidbits

December 6, 2006

Few things will make the writer of a political piece let out a “D’oh!” like goofing on someone’s party affiliation. But that’s what happened when I wrote my “From the Chief” column last week and got Superior Court Judge Deborah Todd’s party ties mixed up. Several vigilant writers were kind enough to point out that she is a Democrat – a “life-long Democrat,” as the judge told me this week.

But that wasn’t the only feedback I got. A few people contacted me to let me know there’s talk of some other potential candidates, including Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge John Younge and state Sen. Jeffrey Piccola. Younge, who is black, and Piccola, who is from Dauphin County, would help diversify the crowd somewhat.

Another judge who someone suggested – but I haven’t heard mentioned as being interested in running – is Commonwealth Court Judge Bonnie Leadbetter.

The other thing I’m hearing is the price tag to win a seat on the court: at least $2 million.

There’s good reason to think that number is on the mark. Supreme Court Justice Max Baer spent roughly $1.7 million in 2003 in his victory over Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin, who spent $1.1 million.

A few court watchers have theorized that the price tag might ultimately be higher than $2 million because there are now two seats open on the court, with party control up for grabs. Those same people have told me that because the Pennsylvania GOP suffered so many losses in the November elections – the governor’s race, Sen. Rick Santorum’s seat, apparently the state House, among others – they expect the GOP to go all out in the statewide judicial races. And if that happens, they say, it’s likely to drive up the amount of money raised for the races.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

More Than a Decade After Impeachment, Larsen is Disbarred

December 4, 2006

Rolf Larsen, the former state Supreme Court justice removed from the bench in 1994, has been officially disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The justices’ half-page order in Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Larsen did not indicate the grounds for Larsen’s disbarment, but a June 2005 report in the matter from the court’s Disciplinary Board indicates that this most recent action relates to his conviction for unlawful acquisition of prescription medications.

The prescription drug-related charges had been filed by the state Attorney General following its investigation into Larsen’s ex parte communications.

The court’s order states that  Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy did not participate in the matter.

Larsen served as a justice from 1987 until July 1994.

His attorney in the disciplinary proceedings, Robert Felkay of Pittsburgh, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

A call to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel seeking comment on the disbarment was not immediately returned.

— Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter